March 31, 2019

Series: March 2019

Category: Lent

Speaker: Rob McClellan and Guest(s)

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

16From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  THIS IS HOLY WISDOM, HOLY WORD.  THANKS BE TO GOD.  Amen.


          “…we are ambassadors for Christ…” (2 Cor. 5:20).  That’s quite an image, quite a calling.  When I think of the term “ambassador,” I think of bringing something somewhere else, or of representing one group to another.  Indeed, Paul says, God has entrusted the message of reconciliation to us.  It goes without saying that in order to “bring reconciliation, one must understand the estranged parties, one must know them and the causes of their rift.  I had the good fortune of being research assistant to the former ambassador to the Cameroon, and what I noticed as he spoke of that experience was just how much of his work was not delivering anything to the people of Cameroon; it was getting to know them, and if anything, relaying their needs.

          This is part of why twice now this church has sent delegations to Borderlinks, an organization with close ties to the Presbyterian church, that works on both sides of the U.S. – Mexico.  Borderlinks tries to shed light on some of what is happening on the border to those from the United States who would come and see.  There’s no denying the hold immigration has on our national consciousness, nor the strength of feelings it evokes, nor the significant divergence in opinions of how to fix what most seem to agree is a broken system.  It is tempting not to want to engage such a complex and tense question.  As ambassadors of Christ, entrusted with a ministry of reconciliation, it’s our calling to engage, and to see how we might contribute to a better way.

          Today, we hear from two participants on that delegation.  Their remarks grew out of a conversation we had in which I asked them a number of questions, questions such as:  What did you see?  What surprised you?  What seems clearer to you now?  What is less clear?  What questions do you return carrying?  What does this have to do with your faith? 

With that, I welcome Westminster members Judy Friede and Mickey Graves…

Mickey Graves

 I personally went to see firsthand what the actual situation is at the border. 

 Borderlinks in Tuscon- Organization - provides educational programs 

Help participants better understand the border issues, immigration and provide platform to discuss social justice.

 Didn’t get to meet everyone we would like to have met; for instance, border patrol. 

 Challenge my own perspective of our roles and systems in addressing the immigration crisis

recognizing our infrastructure cannot support everyone who would like to come to America.

 Many questions ~

 If migrants can enter legally and apply for asylum, why don’t they?

 What desperation can possibly lead parents to send their children alone?

 Who would choose to undertake such dire risks??

 Risks are immense - The desert is rife with risk, dark, freezing cold, scorching heat, inhospitable terrain.   Severe danger in riding or jumping onto the trains with many losing limbs or life, high risk of robbery, rape, violence and death.

 Drivers of immigration:

 Used to have seasonal workers who have been an integral part of our economy

Most migrant workers don’t all actually WANT to live here.  They have families they love.  Now it is impossible for them to come and go back.

 Many fleeing unimaginable persecution, gang violence and government atrocities

Read in The Far Away Brothers by Lauren Markham ~ 2015 in El Salvador - Branch of Bario 18 gang network conveyed there was to be a “Paro” forced bus strike and any bus driver who went to work risked being shot and killed.  The gangs wanted the government to ease up on its anti-gang crackdown. The strike caused everything to come to a halt, crippling the economy.  At the end of the week, 8 brave bus drivers shot and killed, it was reported they lost over $60 million in commerce. Everyone can now see how powerful the gangs have become.

 Rev. Amy Denney Zuniga:

Those being terrorized into leaving their homes cannot simply move to another part of their country.  Their face goes out on a cell phone across the whole country and they become a target.

 Other targets are small business owners refusing to pay extortion money to gangs/corrupt governments

 Sons are targeted for forced recruitment into gangs

One person’s recruitment required him to kill his own father (The Far Away Brothers)

 Unsafe to cross from Central America - Can take your children and keep them in forced labor or they can be trafficked.

 Economics of Central America in part due to global warming - April 2016 national water shortage emergency El Salvador saw cattle dying, corn drying up. 3.5 million people in Central America were at risk of food insecurity. (The Far Away Brothers)

 We might want to consider how we may have contributed to the situation:

 Our Trade Agreements

 We built the factories with promise of better jobs - small scale farmers sold their farms to move and work international factories

 Dole, Chiquita, Del Monte bought up much of their land.

 10-12 hour workdays; 48 hour work week.

 Child care is unaffordable - So both parents have to work in shifts. 

 In 2018 the new president raised their minimum wage from $4/day to 9-$12/day.  $50/week.

Devaluation of the peso makes qt of milk $1.59 equivalent of $23.  Groceries and staples are significantly less expensive just across the border on US side.

 Now some of the factories are moving to Asia

 The workers have no land to go back to to raise food for income and feeding their families.


 One afternoon we were able to observe Operation Streamline in a courtroom -

 Prior to 2005 border crossing was a civil violation.

 Operation Streamline is a fast track court proceeding that was created to prosecute immigrants as criminals. 

 Intent to condense the usual criminal justice process into a few hours on one day. 

 Tucson court alone prosecutes 75 immigrants per day 4-5 days a week all of whom were picked up within the last 24-48 hours.

 Each has <30 minutes with a public defender prior to court “yes, yes, yes, no, guilty”

 If speak an Indigenous language - no translator to explain what is happening. 

 We witnessed young, exhausted and disheveled men and women shuffle into the courtroom 8-10 at a time in 5pt shackles and chains.  (Hand cuffs, ankle cuffs and chain from wrist to ankle.)

 Most would be on a bus back to Mexico by the end of the afternoon or if from Central America, sent to detention until they have a planeload sending them right back to the fates they were fleeing.

 Prevention through Deterrence is our publicly stated reason for criminalization

 After more than 10 years, no credible evidence that criminalization affects decisions that immigrants make about whether and how to enter the US.

 Private Prison Industry - Shocked me.

 Estimated costs of incarceration alone total about $1 billion/year. 

Two largest private prison corporations earned over $12 billion in PROFITS in the past decade, much of it from immigrant detention.  Taxpayers dollars.

 I came back with more questions than answers.

 What other things might we do with our resources?

 How can we establish a safe and humane immigration system consistent with our values?

 How can we ensure we have checks and balances for our trade agreements?

 Do we provide Visas for temporary workers and have them pay taxes?

 Do we reform legal avenues to ensure due process?

 I support the right of our government to protect our national security. 

 (John Fife - retired Presbyterian minister, human rights advocate asks:)

 What is the legal question: Is what we are doing a violation of international law and human rights?

 Takeaway from personally encountering refugees and hearing their stories - More is required ethically   

 John Fife: Don’t we as faith communities have a particular responsibility with response to human rights?

  Judy Friede

 What surprised me

  1. The Wall Nogales 

           20k on USA side 250k on Mex side     

           How much wall we already have in populated areas

           Since 2000 over 8,000 people have died crossing the border from Mexico

           Razor wire

           Mex factory worker makes $8 to $12 per day, those jobs disappearing, expense of food


  1. The Desert walk one day

          Not the nice flat place I imagined —   harsh, hilly, dried river beds, stones         

           BP jurisdiction, 100 miles

           Border patrol check point 25 miles inland from border

           To cross desert 25+ miles take few days to a week

           BP has planes, drones, chase and scatter

           Smart wall

            Guides to cross the desert called COYOTES (often controlled by cartels),

            if can’t pay beaten or forced to carry drugs, man we saw in court beaten  

            INJURED, slower people abandoned, used to have medical station

         Humanitarian aid,  providing  food and water now a crime

         Signs around TUCSON, protesting criminalization of aid


  1. Derik, asylum seeker Honduras, fleeing violence and corruption, in desert, slow, injured,

           separated from group, no food or water, thinks will die, PRAYS FOR one good person

          Local court denied asylum, judge says wants to see a bullet hole

          Gets immigration lawyer moves case, circuit court, human rights cases

          Cost $6k and 14 days to get the money, boss pays   

          Here since 2015, has work permit, no resolution of status

 What clearer?

      People will just keep coming  economic reality, forged Mex documents so sent back to Mex

      They will continue to die in desert w/o humanitarian aid

       How difficult it is to get into the US legally.  There is no line to stand in.

       Simulation game  

 Another example of Faith in action Southside Presbyterian church 

          Realized need to a place for day workers and employers to connect

          Donated space in parking lot, 6 AM to 10 AM

          Memorial  stones, mostly young people, in their teens, twenties, thirties,

         If any of us had been born in central America or Mex, we might have ended up

         I think of what Jesus taught, “if you have done it for the least of these…”

        And I wonder how we as people of Faith are being called to help?

  Let us pray,

Gracious God, we pray for those who suffer, those who live in danger.  We pray for wisdom, courage, creativity, possibility, cooperation, trust, and hope.  We pray for those in leadership positions, large and small, that they might be blessed with discerning minds.  Go with us, O God, but even more lead us.  Amen.